Housetraining Your Kerry

Based on a question posed at the KerryBlues-L Newslist.


Someone wrote: "We own a 10 month old male puppy and it still has accidents in the house. We have tried the standard training methods and still have problems."

Before I recommend any training methods, have you had your Kerry in to the vet for a full medical workup? Any training will be useless if he has some sort of a medical problem that makes urinating or holding his urine painful or difficult. I once fostered an elderly rescue dog that routinely wet his crate at night, not because he wasn't housebroken, but because he had kidney disease and was physically incapable of going all night without relieving himself. Although what you describe sounds like a behavioral problem, get a clean bill of health from your vet before you do anything else.

Other factors to consider are whether or not he is neutered (intact males will sometimes mark territory), and what the pack dynamics are between him and your other two dogs--if there is tension between them or any sort of jockeying in the pack order, this problem could be the result. A few years ago I knew a woman whose one terrier bitch had taken to peeing in the house. It turns out that there was a serious conflict going on between this dog and her other terrier bitch, and the owner's attempts to settle the matter were only making things worse. Anyway, if you want to solve this problem, you need to consider all the possible reasons for it
occuring. But if this is something he has done all his life, chances are that he simply was never properly housebroken. Some dogs are harder to housebreak than others--it is no reflection on your Kerry's intelligence or your training abilities.

As far as training goes, he needs to go back to kindergarten. When he is not outside or being directly supervised, he needs to be crated. To increase your control of him while he is in the house, you might even want to consider keeping him leashed. Second, get a good urine deodorizer (Nature's Miracle is my personal favorite) and attack every spot he has ever hit. Depending on the extent of the problem, you might even hire a carpet cleaning service (be sure to tell them about the "pet odor" problem). You can use a black light to make sure you have located all the spots. This will help move things along by removing any tempting odors
that might tell him it is okay to mark there.

The next part is communicating to your dog that going outside is great, but going inside is not. This means you should go outside with him when he does his business, just as if he were a puppy. When he goes, give him lots of praise and petting, or click and treat, or whatever you do when he's good. The other half of this equation, of course, is letting him know that going inside is not desirable. All the dog books say do not punish a dog that makes a mistake, but there is nothing wrong with telling him that he is wrong. Use the word "wrong," or "eh-eh," or another word or phrase that will let him know that he won't be getting any treats for what he's doing. Then take him outside and give him the chance to get it right. You can also do this if you find a mess after the fact--again, don't punish him or rub his nose in it, but take him to the spot, matter-of-factly inform him that he was wrong, and take him outside. This last part worked great when I was struggling to housebreak Katie--a stealth pee-er if I ever knew one!

I believe that if you are consistent and do this properly, your Kerry will catch on fairly quickly, and you could see improvement in just a few weeks. Just remember that old habits die hard, and you will have to be diligent for many weeks to make sure he doesn't slip back into his old ways.

Lisa M. Frankland,
USKBTC Puppy Referal


I own a very sweet Kerry male. My first. He is not neutered. I have had him for a year. He is basically an inside dog. I have three kids:14,11 and 8. They love him. I am at an impasse with Beau. He is "trained"( I use the term loosely) to go out on a leash to relieve himself. We walk him a good 1/8 mile (sometimes every two hours and always after he eats). We seemed to be making progess although he kept having accidents. I told myself he was young and continued to take him out frequently and praise him highly. He still has accidents (BM's). Can you help me?

It sounds as if you have done everything right and "by the book" --frequent walks especially after meals (and playtime), praising him when he eliminates outside, and providing the same diet on the same schedule every day (I assume). You say he is not sick--have you had a vet exam recently? I would want to rule out any possible physical condition first. A 1-year-old Kerry should be able to go 4-6 hours without having to eliminate.

I don't know how common two bowel movements are, one after the other as your Kerry does, but I do know that both my Kerries (male and female) do this nearly every evening, and sometimes even produce a third BM! This occurs on our walks, which are usually a couple of miles and last 40 minutes to an hour. I think the excitement of being on a walk and the exercise results in multiple bowel movements in some dogs. I would recommend that you extend the walk (the one that precedes the second BM) until he eliminates a second time. Then bring him in and keep your eye on him. It could be simply a matter of him not having enough time to completely eliminate.

Be sure to clean the areas in the house where he eliminated before using a good deodorizer. A pet supply store would carry products designed specifically for eliminating the scent of animal feces. If he can smell even the slightest trace of where he was before, he is more likely to have another accident on that spot.

What helped me most in housetraining my dogs was this line I read in a book: "Success with housetraining depends on your ability to predict the call of nature." I actually kept track of the times the dog needed to eliminate and was careful to always feed at the same time each day. My dogs were (and are) extremely predictable--I could time each "event" down to the nearest 10 minutes. If longer walks do not solve his problem, consider noting the times of his BM's for a week, and always get him outside at those times.

The possibility exists that he doesn't completely understand that eliminating in the house is unacceptable. Apart from lavishly praising him when he does his duties outside, you need to catch him in the act in the house so you can give him a correction (a firm "No!" followed by a quick trip outside). Timing is everything.

If longer walks, eliminating all traces of odor from the previous accidents, timing the "event," and correcting accidents in the house as they happen don't work, my last resort suggestion is to crate him when an accident is likely. Most Kerries will not mess their crates. If you crate him for an hour, then take him out, you can avoid accidents. And the more he does his business outside, the less likely he will want to do it in the house.

Your dog's behavior is unusual for a Kerry, and I think it can be solved. If something else comes to mind, I will let you know. In the meantime, good luck, and let me know what happens.

Janet Joers
KBTCSC Rescue Coordinator


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